Every Girl Should Be Married

Oh, it’s a dated little display of contemporary values, but I loved it! Contemporary at that time, of course. 1948′s Every Girl Should Be Married, with Cary Grant and Betsy Drake.

When I flipped on the television yesterday, its innocence and charm caught my fancy.

But there was more. As I kept watching, I couldn’t believe how much has changed in 60 years.

And not.

So what seemed familiar in this old-school Girl Goes After Guy (and gets him) story?

We have a predictably pretty female (Drake) who sets her sights on a debonair doctor (Grant). She trots out a variety of ploys which are no surprise, except perhaps in their effectiveness.

Every Girl Should Be Married

As for strategies, there’s the tried-and-true jealousy strategy, for one. Come on now. You know it works. When a man senses that a competitor is sniffing around a woman, he’s suddenly more attracted.

There’s also the “good future wife and mother” scene – complete with beautifully set table and delicious dinner fare.

We have the film’s outright admission that women rely on their feminine “wiles” to set a trap for a mate, and while I might use other terminology, don’t we all know how to put our most marketable faces forward? And more?

We recognize Grant as the committed bachelor, trying to hang on to his freedom for dear life. Drake maneuvers him into pursuing her, while juggling other suitors – the traditional Nice Guy (no, he doesn’t get the girl) and the upper crust Womanizer (a serial remarrier).

Add in the requisite conspiratorial confidantes (girlfriend power), and what has changed?

Film Fantasies = Porn for Women?

Now I’m not saying that this superficial sampling of behaviors runs rampant in my circles, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t seen it play out in my post-divorce dating life all these decades after this little movie was made.

There’s no doubt in my mind that when it comes to romance and relationships, many of our attitudes and actions haven’t changed much in the past few generations – despite feminism, post-feminism, and 60 years of so-called progress.

What has changed is the social and economic structure within which these relationships unfold.

So what about our relationship views as reflected by the films we watch? Don’t plenty of us take our cues from what we’re fed by the media – especially when we’re young? Don’t we continue to do so, especially at vulnerable moments, when we zap around on television, settling in with the comfort of a romantic comedy with its ultimate happy ending?

One man I know calls these romance comedies “porn for women” and deems the happily ever after attitude (that culminates in marriage) to be damaging. I may find the reference to romantic comedies as “porn” to be harsh in its phrasing, but is it wrong in its sentiment that too much of this messaging may set us up for disaster? Or is that only true if we can’t distinguish between reality and film fantasy?

Who hasn’t entertained the rescue fantasy at least once or twice? Or does it go down in more palatable fashion if I refer to it as the Cinderella Complex, or a revived, Post-Millennial Princess?

Romance Roundabouts

Romance? I’m definitely pro.

Love and commitment? That, too.

But my days of wanting a Prince to ride in and make life “easy” disappeared with the other naive expectations discarded in the teen years. But that isn’t the case for many women. And men?

As for marriage, is it still the norm? Is it genuinely changing, or breaking – in order to eventually evolve? Some of us are no longer choosing to marry, or hoping to refashion what marriage may mean, attempting to tweak (if not discard) the Happily Ever After Myth. Some of us believe that “good” really is good, and we don’t seek an idealized version of romantic interaction.

Some of us – the very young? – are actively looking for the perfect picture, blithely (and foolishly?) hoping for the sort of spouse, children, shared home scenario depicted on screen.

So what do we make of the fact that gender interactions seem so familiar, even when viewing films from 60 and 70 years ago? If we recognize that certain basic behaviors still exist, doesn’t that mean there’s a valid reason? Should every girl be married? Does every man consider marriage a cage, until he’s happily entrapped?

More Musings on Film Females

For a few more musings on men and women, and murmurs of the heart as depicted in film:

It’s Complicated – Divorced and having an affair (with each other)

Closer – A fascinating exploration of men, women, sex, and intimacy

The Answer Man – Asking big questions, with a leitmotif of fathers and sons



© D A Wolf

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Comments

  1. I agree…porn for women. It’s not realistic and isn’t that what we always say those girls in porn are–unrealistic. Fantasies are great…and I will admit I get a little hyped up from watching romantic comedies myself…but we have to realize the difference between those and reality.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Do you think the problem is how early we see these films, and how often, Soccer Mom? How do we raise our daughters to put these films into perspective?

  2. Some individuals should never marry – those who are incapable of truly sharing their lives with another (even when they may feel “in love”). I tend to consider past history more than future hope, although it is interesting to consider a few famous individuals who were successful after repeated marriage failures (this may be associated with aging changes, however). Why did Hitler and Nijinsky ever marry (oops, not to one another, you know what I mean)?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Interesting examples, Paul… But it does seem like some shouldn’t marry, though I’m more likely to say that some people should never become parents.

  3. So can we say the same for ACTION-HERO films for boys?

    All little boys want to grow up to be the superheros, to be the action hero racing a fast car, getting all the hot babes, blowing up everything with large explosions and being a bad-ass beloved tough guy that stays single and unattainable but wanted by all.

    Barbie meets GI Joe.

    I think boys and girls can learn to tell reality from fantasy. I think if you teach kids that NOTHING shown in a movie made by Hollywood is reality they will get it. Whether it is a romantic comedy or a blow-em up action movie, a thriller or a drama, or a sci-fi movie or a cartoon about cars. It is all fantasy. As long as we teach our kids that fact they should be smart enough to understand.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Barbara, thanks so much for joining the conversation – and welcome. Great comparison to the shoot-em-up films that boys are drawn to. So it’s a matter of parental teachings?

  4. I have to say it is a matter of parental teachings.

    Any parent who merely plops their kid in front a TV / movie and doesn’t TEACH their children about what they are viewing is bad at parenting.

    I believe you have to explain a lot to children, specially when they SEE something, so that they understand what it really is and what the purpose is.

    As for them growing up to mimic the movies in terms of how they fashion their approach to relationships… I would be scared if all parents out there are just letting their young children assume Hollywood’s version of marriage and relationships and dating was “normal”. How sad would that be if all young men and women only gained their knowledge of love and relationships from movies made by Hollywood!

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      As children get older, the dynamics become far more complicated. As parents, we can no longer control their environment. They will be subject to the inputs in day care, in school, at friends’ homes, from peers and yes – media. We can position those inputs to some extent, but each child will take our inputs (not only actions, but carefully chosen words) – and process them along with everything else.

      We influence a great deal, but not as much as we like to think.

  5. “I’m more likely to say that some people should never become parents.” Totally agree. How about dropping the license for getting married but requiring a license for having children?

  6. Gosh, I love Cary Grant!
    I think Barbara has a good point about parent involvement. My teens watch these movies, and “reality” TV shows and we have had conversations about reality vs. fantasy. I have also taken them to TV show tapings and filming of movies near our home to take the glamour away from film and TV and show them it really is just a business.

  7. “How about dropping the license for getting married but requiring a license for having children?” Reminds me of the situation in Asia where they are limited to one child per family. Haven’t read much about it beyond that, but I don’t see most of the world ready to license/limit kids even though it might benefit a lot of children born into horrible situations.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      All joking aside, Gandalfe, I don’t think government should have anything to do with our private lives (who we love or how), our parenting, and our bodies. However, we know that isn’t realistic, for so many reasons. That said, there are many systems and institutions in place in our country which have critical ripple effects on families (I’m stating the obvious I know), and ironically, our educational systems do nothing to prepare young men and women for either marriage or parenting. Seems foolish to me.

  8. I’ve noticed that Happily Ever After doesn’t exist, even in movies. It’s just words on the screen at the end, sort of a fantasy of a fantasy. The Romantic Myth goes back to the middle ages, and is a very bad myth, usually ending in death. See Romeo and Juliet. Neither of these offer much to base a living relationship on.

    It would be nice to see more models of successful partnership where both thrive in one another’s company over time. As far as I can tell, these bonds require great good luck, or an excruciating mindfulness. In the ancient world, they say, people didn’t marry for love. As a result, infidelity (at least in men) was condoned as an outlet. I wonder if that could work now, granting both parties the right to be unfaithful. Or would it prove too big a problem for men?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I wonder what others think of this idea. The men, and the women. Those who have been through a marriage already, and those who have not as yet – or may be in a first marriage now. Provocative, Wolf.

  9. I think we all have moments (brief moments, like the end of a film), that look like happily ever after. But anything forever after seems impossible. No relationship is without turbulence. I know even my best, oldest girl friends and I have had eras we would all rather forget. Why do we expect marriage to be different?
    I am in my first, I hope only, marriage. I think persistence and a desire to support each other to be our best selves is what keeps us together for our nearly 14 years. Romantic passion is too changeable a thing to hold you up. Thats not to say I don’t love my husband. And about the condoned affairs…it might work for some, but not me.

  10. Loved the comments, agree with them. Oh and I too love Carey Grant. I was married and divorced, I don’t think I bought the fantasy, but definitely loved being married but in the last few years, he just had problems that were bigger than the both of us… well the three of us.

    My mother always use to tell me movies were fantasy and that wasn’t the real world, so that message always stayed with me.

    I go back and forth on whether I want to remarry again. I go through the phase where I don’t mind ending up like Pitt-Jolie or Hawn-Russell. But lately, I’ve been getting swept away with the thoughts of marriage… so who knows.

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